Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

National Day of Prayer

Yesterday was a national day of prayer. One bit of news from yesterday was that President Obama declined to participate in the annual prayer breakfast. While that may be disconcerting because it breaks tradition and sends a signal that he doesn’t consider it that important, I am not as disturbed by it as you might think.

Bill Clinton made a show of always appearing at such events. I also remember how each Sunday he provided a photo op coming out of church carrying his Bible. That was hypocrisy of the highest order. I’m almost relieved that Obama didn’t do the same. Let’s get a true measure of the man. The only “church” he’s ever been part of was Rev. Wright’s liberation theology/black nationalism/despise America church. At least by not appearing at the prayer breakfast, President Obama did not put on a false mask.

I attended the prayer breakfast here in Lakeland. Sometimes these events can be pretty staid and stale, more civic responsibility than reality. I was pleased, though, that this one was genuine. Lauren Dungy, the wife of Tony Dungy, former NFL coach, offered one of the most poignant and directed prayers I have ever heard at a prayer breakfast. It cut to the heart of the nation’s needs. She even petitioned that God would change Obama’s heart on the issue of abortion.

The speaker, pro golfer Brad Bryant, gave a moving personal testimony, and was quite up front with the need for our country to turn back, not just to some vague God-concept, but specifically to Jesus Christ. His heartfelt plea moved most of the audience.

The closing prayer actually included the words [paraphrased, since I don’t remember them exactly], “Lord, bring President Obama to know Your salvation through Jesus Christ.” That would shock many, I’m sure, who believe the president already is a Christian. I was glad that the closing prayer clearly acknowledged that conversion has not taken place in his life.

For those who read this blog regularly, please do keep in mind that even though I criticize Obama, my criticisms are for the purpose of alerting people to the truth about his beliefs and policies. And yes, I sometimes aim at his character as well. I see no need to shrink from that. Yet I do desire that he change: repentance and forgiveness are offered to everyone. I have no hatred for the man, even when I cry out against his actions. What a wonderful testimony of God’s grace if he were to turn from his ways and begin to follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Meanwhile, don’t be fooled by outward shows of piety. Faith without works is dead. Any faith that doesn’t reverse policy on abortion, same-sex marriage, and other moral issues, is not the real faith. See the world, and Obama, with clear eyes, recognizing the reality while continually praying for God to change hearts.

Principle: Christian Character (Part III)

The Bible is replete with examples of godly character. I’m particularly drawn to those examples that show a person maintaining godly character while serving in public office. For instance, when the prophet Samuel steps down as judge over Israel, he challenges the people by stating,

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes. If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

How many politicians today would dare raise such issues? How many would have clean consciences? In Samuel’s case, the people responded,

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. (I Sam. 12:3-5)

What a testimony!

The prophet Daniel, serving in the godless kingdom of Babylon, continued to be faithful to God and to carry out his governmental duties honestly. His promotion led to jealousy on the part of other government officials.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. (Dan. 6:3-4)

The misdeeds of our elected officials sometimes cause us to become cynical about government. But there are those who carry out their responsibilities with the kind of character that reflects Christ. We need to support such people. Pray for them. Vote for them. Our government is only a reflection of who we are.

Principle: Christian Character (Part II)

The central Christian character trait that must be present in our lives is love. Of course it needs to be defined. Love is not a feeling. I prefer the definition given by Charles Finney:

It has been shown that the sum and spirit of the whole law is properly expressed in one word—love. It has also been shown that this love is benevolence or good willing; that it consists in choosing the highest good of God and of universal being, for its own intrinsic value, in a spirit of entire consecration to this as the ultimate end of existence.

I italicized one portion on purpose. The essence of love, according to Finney, and, I believe, according to the Scriptures, is a choice to do the right thing. We may have feelings when operating in love, but those feelings are not love. The choice to do what God calls us to do, even when we don’t feel like it, is what love is all about.

Love then manifests itself in many other traits—righteousness, mercy, humility, faithfulness—the list of character qualities is quite long. Yet they all are grounded in love.

If we love, and if we are committed to continuing in that love [the character trait of faithfulness], the result is holiness. Some people have trouble with that word. They think it means you must dress a certain way, not go to the movies, or many other external prohibitions. I believe, however, that holiness is merely acting in love and doing it consistently. Doesn’t that take all the dread out of the word?

The world isn’t too concerned about doing the right thing.

Yes, but righteousness, based on love, would prevail.

Principle: Christian Character (Part I)

We are all free moral agents made in the image of God. In order for His creation to operate the way He intended, we must reflect His character. If we don’t, everything falls apart [which is evident just by observing the world].

Noah Webster’s dictionary definition of character, distinct from the human aspect, was simply “a mark made by cutting, engraving, stamping, or pressing.” Like a typewriter—you remember those? Put in the paper, press the key, the arm jumps up and cuts, engraves, stamps, or presses on the paper, making a “mark.”

It works the same way with people. Our character is made by the various cuttings we must endure, the engravings that sometimes hurt, the stamping and pressing that oftentimes leaves us wondering how we are going to survive. Yet those very circumstances of life make us into what we are. They form our character.

Character is created within; it reveals itself externally. We cannot simply grit our teeth and determine we will have godly character; it must spring from a heart that is changed. The Apostle Paul alluded to this when he wrote to the Corinthian believers:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (II Cor. 3:2-3)

The real change takes place in the heart. What is in the heart will be manifested. Some may not like this explanation:

Truth can disturb us—but that’s the nature of truth. Only when we face up to the truth and acknowledge it for what it is can we be set free.

Resurrection Day

The tomb is empty.

There is more significance to this day than to all other holidays combined—Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving—yes, even Christmas, because Christmas would have no meaning if Christ had not fulfilled His mission.

May all who are reading this know the One who is the focus of this day.

The Culture War: Homosexuality vs. Christian Faith

Who Would Have Believed It Would Come to This?
Who Would Have Believed It Would Come to This?

The Washington Post, of all places, has an article pointing out the problems faced by Christians who are standing by their belief that homosexuality is sinful. When Christians take this stand, they are being confronted with the government’s insistence that “gay rights” trumps religious convictions.

I don’t provide this article to make anyone angry or to say that we are to despair; I merely want to help us understand the transition we are facing in this culture. The real question is whether we are ready and willing to be steadfast in our faith and provide a clear explanation for why we believe as we do. Let it be a challenge for all of us who claim the name of Christ. Can we respond intelligently, clearly, and with the full force of our convictions? And as we do so, can we offer those who are involved in a sinful lifestyle the path to redemption? Those are the marks of the true follower of Christ.

Pull Out of Politics?

I am linking to an article by commentator Kathleen Parker. It is entitled “Christians at the Gate.” The thesis is that the Christian Right has failed in its endeavor to influence politics. The culture war has been lost. She then quotes some Christian leaders who say that we instead need to model the character of Christ rather than press for political change.

Please do read it and feel free to comment. The main problem I see with the article is that it seems to present the dilemma of an either/or situation. It’s as if one cannot be involved in political life and simultaneously display the character of Christ.

There was a time in my life when I thought it might be better for Christians to just fly under the radar, concentrate on cultural change outside of politics, and set aside ambitious goals in government. After all, government is not our savior. But after a while, I realized that it is not one or the other—it is both. We work with people one-on-one to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ while doing our best to stay the hand of the Destroyer in the political realm.

Yes, there are some Christians who allow political involvement to overshadow everything else. They are in danger of setting up a false god. But there are also those who avoid any cultural confrontation politically, thereby silencing the Christian voice in the public sphere. We should do neither.

The Lord is Lord of all aspects of life. Nothing is outside his Lordship. When Christians fulfill their responsibilities, no matter what the arena, they are bringing His Lordship to bear on the culture—government or otherwise.

This, I believe, is the task the Lord sets before us. When we accomplish it with the proper spirit, we honor Him.

One more point: He never said we would always be successful, but He does require obedience and faithfulness to His calling.